Photo: Siri Hempel Lindøe.Photo: Siri Hempel Lindøe

Conservation Agriculture, Gender and Land Rights

Last updated: 07.06.2016 // In Mozambique, where seventy percent of the population relies on subsistence farming, food security is highly dependent on access to land and sustainable use of resources. Working with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Norway supports efforts in northern Mozambique to introduce more sustainable agricultural techniques, while also securing land rights and empowering farmers through training and advocacy.

With Mozambique experiencing drought due to El Niño, most farmers in southern and central regions of Mozambique have not been able to secure a harvest this year. As of May 2016, an estimated 1.5 million people were food insecure and in need of assistance. In addition to facing the challenges of an increasingly unpredictable and disaster-prone natural environment, Mozambique’s farmers are also experiencing disenfranchisement and competition for resources from the extractive industries and large-scale agriculture farms that operate in the country.

NPA has partnered with organizations UNAC and ORAM in the provinces of Nampula, Cabo Delgado, Niassa, Tete and Manica, with the objective of improving livelihoods and securing land rights for small-scale farmers. A lack of awareness about their rights and how to claim them often makes farmers vulnerable to land grabbing and disenfranchisement when companies avoid their obligations to local communities, or harvest resources illegally. According to Mozambican law, mining and forest operators and commercial farming projects are required to support local community development through a revenue tax or paying back a small percentage of their profit margin. Often, however, these commitments are not carried out, and small-scale farmers tend not to have the knowledge and capacity to lobby government and claim their rights from private firms. Combining land rights advocacy with sustainable agriculture and education is a holistic approach to improving the situation by lifting farmers out of both food insecurity and illiteracy. NPA partner Association for Support and Legal Assistance to Communities (AAAJC) has been training local advocates to pressure government and companies to live up to their legal commitments. One of their success stories involves two farmers, who after advocacy training were able to convince a mining company to build a primary school for their community.  

Promoting female leadership is also an important component of the NPA’s project in the region. The Women Can Do It (WCDI) initiative, which provides training for women so they can become leaders in their community, has been a success. Fifty-eight per cent of women in Mozambique are illiterate, which is why alphabetization courses are essential in enabling women to take an active role as community advocates, and to improve their lives through education and enterprise. The Norwegian Embassy visited Nampula in December 2015 and saw the importance of this literacy training. The women said they previously did not know how to read and write, but could now proudly demonstrate how they had learned to read and write their own names though the literacy courses provided by UGCAN, a member organization of the national farmers union UNAC. After receiving education through the WCDI, many of the women have reported having increased capacity to engage with matters that affect them and their community, and many are also eager to continue their education in order to gain further opportunities.

NPA’s work in Mozambique promotes Conservation Agriculture (CA), which seeks to increase agricultural yield with sustainable methods that conserve the environment. Switching to CA methods can increase productivity by allowing a plot of land to be used for longer, while requiring less water usage than with traditional methods. For example, the use of compost to retain humidity is a measure that could secure harvests even during periods of low rain fall. This is not only useful in increasing food security for the individual farmer, but also serves to stagger soil degradation and the deforestation caused by traditional slash-and-burn methods. Considering the Mozambican population’s dependence on subsistence farming, developing the agricultural sector in a way that supports livelihoods and sustainable land usage at the same time is essential to both short-term food security and long-term development.

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